My colleague Helen Rountree is in the process of completing her Trinity DipTESOL. In this guest post, she shares some of the tips she has been given while doing the course. Note: all links to books are my affiliate links to Amazon.
Language Awareness & The Exam
- Do some full, timed practise exams before the day – even it’s just to know what your hand feels like after scribbling non-stop for 3 hours!
- Revision – with so many language points that could come up, know that you can’t revise everything but learn some general quotes from big names like Parrott, Scrivener, Harmer etc to drop in for different things.
- If you’re currently teaching, make notes on language points as you teach them – the ones I remembered best in the exams were the ones I’d reflected on after presenting them in class. It also gives you clear examples of what your students found difficult and activities you used.
- Look back at past exam papers and find the points that come up repeatedly (for example, the classification of conditionals)
Unit 2: Coursework Portfolio
I’ve not finished this unit yet so can’t really give any tips.
Unit 3: Phonology Interview
This is made up of:
- 5 minute presentation
- 5 minute discussion about presentation
- 5 minute transcription
- 15 minute chat about phonology in general
- The transcription is only 2 lines (max 20 words) but you must note the phonemic script, features of connected speech, intonation, word stress, and tonic symbols.
- Learn phonemes; use apps like Macmillan’s Sounds and practise writing notes to colleagues/friends in phonemic script.
- Practise transcribing and timing yourself. 5 minutes seems like plenty of time but under pressure it’s not long at all!
- Remember you can ask the examiner to repeat the text as many times as you want within the 5 minutes.
- I found it useful to practise taking random clips from Youtube, transcribe them and then check against a phonemic translator. http://lingorado.com/ipa/ is pretty accurate although it doesn’t have any additional prosodic features.
- Choose to present on something you have experience with and which is specific to your learners (For ideas look at Swan’s Learner English)
- When you’ve chosen something your learners have difficulty with, research the background to the problem with reference to their L1 and prepare to explain how you tackle it. This may be a specific activity, it might be a technique for error correction etc.
- If possible test out your activity/approach with your current students
- At Greenwich, where I did my interview, they ask for your topic in advance of the onsite practical component but in reality you were able to change your topic up until the week of the interview. They also hold a phonology session in the first week which answered a lot of my questions leading up to the interview. There was also time for us to practise our presentation with our tutor, something which proved invaluable for me.
- Whatever you choose make sure you know it inside out- ready to field any questions during the discussion after the interview.
- For the discussion familiarise yourself with the elements of connected speech and be sure to have examples of each one. They love examples!
- They are likely to ask you questions about anything they think you were weak on/missed during your presentation so if you don’t want to be asked about something get it in your presentation where you are in control and you can rehearse first!
- Don’t be afraid to “guide” the discussion at the end to something you feel confident speaking about. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation and if the examiner senses you want to talk about something they will respond to it. For example, if you’ve read about English as a Lingua Franca and feel strongly about the value of teaching connected speech it’s possible from the question “How do you help learners with the schwa?” to lead into a discussion about Jenkins et al. and the suggested lack of importance for intelligibility in accurately pronouncing the schwa sound.
- Get a list of interview questions (in your course materials/ online) and make notes for each question using your own experience and knowledge from your reading.
- Get a friend or family member to ask you the questions and respond without notes.
Unit 4: TP
- Teach students something they don’t know.
- Plan for a 45-minute lesson, not a 60-minute one, and use any extra time to reflect, review and recycle.
- Must pass criteria: x4…
- Lesson Delivery 1: Teacher creates an environment conducive to learning and maintains levels of motivation and interest. (= rapport and an interesting topic!)
- Lesson Delivery 2: Genuine and meaningful communication between learners takes place
- Lesson Delivery 11: The teacher focuses on the use of language in context
- Lesson Delivery 12: There is clear evidence of language / skills development taking place (= teach them something new)
- Familiarise yourself with B2-C1 textbooks and build up a bank of activities and lesson ideas for grammar points which are found at this level.
- Make and test out some practise lesson plans.
- Practise writing out your full lesson plan on the prescribed template so you are used to the detail required.
- Make some model materials you could adapt for different levels/ grammar points.
- Look into ways to differentiate tasks in class, as it’s something they are keen to see in lessons.
- Talk to anyone you know who’s already completed the course – they’ll have invaluable advice and tips!
- Needs Analysis
- Should be made before you start teaching (normally with your teaching group/partner) in the form of a questionnaire or something similar which can be given to your students before the first diagnostic lesson. It’s also a good idea to set a writing task for homework after the first lesson to get a clearer idea of the students’ interests, language needs and motivations to learn, all of which you can include in your class profile.
- It’s a good idea to base your needs analysis questionnaire on the ‘class and lesson profile’ document they provide you with so that you can fill all the necessary sections.
- In your needs analysis questionnaire ask direct questions and use tick boxes.
- The diagnostic lesson on day 1
- Teach exactly how you normally teach (bar the nerves of course) and the advice you get from your tutor will be most applicable. I’m not sure if it’s allowed but I also typed up a full Dip-style lesson plan and asked for advice on my lesson planning too, which my tutor gladly gave.
- Ask lots of questions after this first lesson and pay attention to your tutor’s advice.
- Deal with each day as it comes and try not to think too far ahead.
- But stay ahead of your workload by at least 24 hours. Planning on the day of your observation is not advised for as it can lead to unhealthy stress levels (If you have an observation at 3pm on Thursday have your lesson plan and materials done by 3pm on Wednesday.)
- Work collaboratively with your teaching group/partner.
- During your lessons and when observing others, write down anything you notice about the students that you can add to your class profile later. They love details!
- And as such assess the students’ learning every time – like the mirrors in your driving test overemphasise it in all areas of your TP to show you’ve done it thoroughly.
- Less is more – I found that, for example, for a functional language lesson 6 lexical chunks and 3 lexical items was enough to allow me to also deal with emergent language, set up a full free-ish practice and reflect at the end.
- Trust your instinct and teach lessons in your normal teaching style with content and language points you feel comfortable teaching. Observations are not the time to try out a funky new method or controversial topic you’ve been waiting to experiment with!
- But also try not to teach the same lesson structure repeatedly or stay too within your comfort zone – they like to see you incorporate your own knowledge of different theories and styles in lessons.
- Plan observed lessons where you can show off your teaching – for example don’t plan a 20-minute reading. That’s half your time with you being passive.
- Take the time to get to know your students outside of class. You want them on your side!
- Analyse your planning so you know at every stage what you’re doing and most importantly WHY. They will ask you this in the pre-obs and post-obs interviews. It’s even better if you can back that up with your knowledge of teaching/learning theory.
- Listen carefully to what parts of your lesson they question in the pre-obs interview; it’s often a sign of the part you’ll have issues with/ you’ve not completely thought through. If you have time between your interview and teaching your lesson think about how you can remedy any issues they’ve flagged up. Departing from your plan is not a problem if you can explain afterwards why you felt it was beneficial to do so.
I hope these tips are helpful. Good luck!
Helen has been teaching for IH Bydgoszcz for several years and is the current ADOS. This is her 5th year as an ESL teacher and she’s about to complete her DipTESOL.